It all began in Niran Adedokun’s journalistic mind. For many years as an entertainment journalist, he has observed that Nigeria’s movie industry has an impressive representation of the womenfolk especially in the area of directing compared to anywhere in the world. That inspired his literary piece, Ladies Calling the Shot, which tells the story of these women from their struggles to their successes. He has toured schools and campuses with the book alongside some of the directors featured in the book. The latest one was on the 2019 Internationally Girls’ Day when the author was hosted at Vivian Fowler Memorial College for Girls alongside three female directors namely, Belinda Yanga-Agedah, Grace Edwin Okon and Tope Oshin. Also in attendance were some select students of Topgrade Secondary School, Lagos.
Adedokun, who led the three formidable directors to the book reading, explained the rationale for writing the book and activating conversations around it, drawing upon global developments.
“As at the 89th Academy Awards, only four women had been nominated in the best director category,” he observed. “Only one has won in 2010. The male to female ratio now stands at an outrageous 89:1. Female directors not only suffer inadequate nominations but it indicates the deeper problems of inadequate representation that has haunted Hollywood for decades. There is lack of access to funding for female film makers. A chauvinistic culture makes it a risk for women to be engaged as directors or be sponsored.”
He compared the scale of female directors in Hollywood to Nollywood, concluding that women play significant roles in Nollywood.
“It is fair to say that female film makers in Nigeria have held their own more than their counterparts in Hollywood although, film making in Nigeria is just mid-way through the years that it had been a commercial success in the United States. Therefore, this event is created to mentor young girls,” he added.
In her intervention, Edwin-Okon screened in parts the movie, Heavy Duty. Having enjoyed the tutelage of veteran film makers such as Zeb Ejiro and Jimi Odumosu, she made her debut as a director in 2015 with a short film, titled “Peppersoup ” with a theme of mental health. Grace revealed the discrimination against female directors in Nollywood by potential sponsors who lack confidence in the ability of a woman calling the shots.
“I counsel that you focus on your goals and don’t allow distractions. Study, continue to learn, work hard and pray,” she said.
For Belinda Tanya Agedah, film making was a passion turned portfolio.
“I gained admission to study software engineering at the University of Glasgow. But I have always loved films. I have always loved to tell stories since I was young. I was still in junior secondary school when I started to write novels. I loved telling stories. I loved to read and I wrote a lot. I couldn’t tell my parents that I wanted to be a film maker,” she recounted.
She eventually made a detour to the Department of Film and Television Studies and in 2010, she arrived in Nigeria to shoot a short film, titled Romance is Overrated. Her other productions include Heads Over Heels, Single Mums and Pushing 30.
During the book reading sessions, some excerpts were read from Amaka Igwe’s piece by Tope Oshin who was mentored by Amaka Igwe. Oshin acknowledged the influence of the late female director in her career. This was where she found the courage to pick up the gauntlet as one of the pioneering female directors of the television drama, Tinsel where she logged at least 350 episodes. Oshin is best known for producing the theatrical feature Fifty as well as the MTV’s drama series, Shuga 3, 4 & 6.